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Old 13th June 2013, 09:35   #151
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

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Originally Posted by adc View Post
I still venture outside braving the cold - the night amazing as stars lit up the sky. Wished had a remote timer to do a basic kind of star trail.
What time of the evening was this?
Kept the camera on some soft bag or are going to tell me that you were carrying a tripod also?
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Old 13th June 2013, 09:43   #152
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

One thing I was wondering adc, is 'safety' on these lonely roads? Did you carry some firearm/weapon to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances/people in these wilderness. Because here in West UP, people will gladly 'do away' with you just for your laptop and camera if someone is staying and pitching tent in wilderness.
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Old 13th June 2013, 11:29   #153
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

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Originally Posted by adc View Post
I still venture outside braving the cold - the night amazing as stars lit up the sky, at 9:15 pm on October 2, 2012. Wished had a remote timer to do a basic kind of star trail.
Attachment 1096042
WOW!

That image should be the (best) pic of this amazing travelogue.

dada, one word to your energy and enthusiasm.

RESPECT!
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Old 13th June 2013, 11:42   #154
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Imagine if your phone had not gone out of coverage area, you could have done Zanskar too
Lovely coverage. On the car you just whiz past most of it.
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Old 13th June 2013, 13:30   #155
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

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Originally Posted by Rudra Sen View Post
What time of the evening was this?
Kept the camera on some soft bag or are going to tell me that you were carrying a tripod also?

It was at 9:21 pm.

Among all the things, I even carried a light weight partially foldable plastic chair! Seen here. This was used as a base over here keep the camera while riding, and kept in place with the bungee cord running over the camera body. Not at all it was okay, a bump and the camera would be pointing towards one side other than my riding direction. Whatever videos have come out are also jerky as the camera bounced over the hard plastic on rough roads.

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Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-img_9589.jpg


Rudra-da, the tripod was carried till Manali and was in the list before it got ditched even before starting the journey. Here are some of the texts about it from introductory pages.



Quote:
Close to 3 kg of weight with the camera bag. I even had the temerity to carry the tripod [vanguard aluminum one that weighed another 2.5 kg] .


Anyway on feeling the cycle load on the stairs then and there itself, re-visted the items again and among the first to chuck out was the aluminum tripod, which itself was some 2.5 kg at least. As said before, i had this grand idea before the trip that while cycling along this highway, it would be great for photography as I would be going more slow, stopping and clicking more frequently. Took out also was one set of warm inners [two sets initially packed], a jeans and jar of honey bought in Manali.
For the next journey, if and when possible, have got this [Dinkum clamp] to fix on the handlebar for recording while cycling. Still doubt whether it will hold steady on a rocky track with over 2.5 kg of DSLR camera and lens weight.

http://www.amazon.com/Dinkum-Systems...1108502&sr=1-1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkaile View Post
One thing I was wondering adc, is 'safety' on these lonely roads? Did you carry some firearm/weapon to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances/people in these wilderness. Because here in West UP, people will gladly 'do away' with you just for your laptop and camera if someone is staying and pitching tent in wilderness.

No firearm other than a knife that I had, but that was carried with the intention for general use rather than any thing. If this had been bear territory or something, would have carried a strong pepper spray or such.

This is a travel land and people here are habituated to seeing tents, either on this type of journey or for treks. And also a less frequented and not so commercialized travel area has a different kind of outlook.

Camping in hills is okay and quite frequent all over India, but in plains, any State, never - even if you have a guard dog.







Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Imagine if your phone had not gone out of coverage area, you could have done Zanskar too
Lovely coverage. On the car you just whiz past most of it.

I would be coming to that thought and writing about it when I reach Leh! Zanskar was covered extensively till the end of roads on either side during our Zanskar and interior Kashmir travel, but I was absoultely interested and on the verge of calling you on reaching Leh to find out where you were -- for those lakes, Kyun Tso and Mirpal Tso.

Last edited by adc : 13th June 2013 at 13:47.
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Old 13th June 2013, 13:33   #156
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Quote:
Originally Posted by adc View Post
I would be coming to that thought and writing about it when I reach Leh! Zanskar was covered extensively till the end of roads on either side during our Zanskar and interior Kashmir travel, but I was absoultely interested and on the verge of calling you on reaching Leh to find out where you were -- for those lakes, Kyun Tso and Mirpal Tso.
We were in Leh only for 2 nights.
I tried calling you, but phone was out of coverage area. Then at Nubra again the next day I tried. Our next signal coverage was in Leh city itself when we briefly past through on the way to zanskar. Again no luck.
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Old 13th June 2013, 14:13   #157
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
We were in Leh only for 2 nights.
I tried calling you, but phone was out of coverage area. Then at Nubra again the next day I tried. Our next signal coverage was in Leh city itself when we briefly past through on the way to zanskar. Again no luck.

It would have been a big coincidence considering that my date of arriving at Leh was not fixed. Would have called if not for Stok Kangri being open even at 2nd week of October [a kind of rarity ] and also got a good guide at an affordable rate, I went with that option as by cycling was acclimatized very well and could do it in 3 days rather than the 7-8 days required.

Was in Leh for 2 nights, before I was again lost to connection for next few days due to Stok Kangri.

Need your suggestion, as and when possible -- please do recommend a basic handheld GPS or those that trekkers use [even B/W screen would do] that has a long battery life and has trackback facility, i.e, i can come back from where I started.

Last edited by adc : 13th June 2013 at 14:23.
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Old 13th June 2013, 15:29   #158
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Buy any waterproof garmin unit (110-150$ odd). You can go for magellan or Lowrance(cheaper) since you do not care about maps etc., only an ability to follow your trail. Battery life is usually 10 hours for AA powered units, and about 18-20 hours for Lithium rechargeable units. Many are waterproof till 2-3 meters.
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Old 13th June 2013, 16:39   #159
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Thumbs up Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

WOW! Seeing the pictures itself made me feel dizzy, and to think you went through all this with no company other than your bicycle=Out of this world. You sir, are definitely one among less than 1% of this world who love to venture around in bicycles! RESPECT! I, on the other hand get tired even before riding 5-6 kms on a bicycle. I would never ever even dream of doing such a thing, and if i did, i'd rather hire a helicopter or a plane to airdrop me at the top of the peak and cycle downhill (ya, i get it, even that's very demanding, right?) But then, thinking of it now, i feel like one should visit these places in their lifetime once (atleast in a car) and, i will try it once i get more old and wise. You're truly a great inspiration! and yes,
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Old 13th June 2013, 17:38   #160
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

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Originally Posted by adc View Post
Day 12: Tashi dhaba -Tso Kar [15,000 ft] : contd...

I still venture outside braving the cold - the night amazing as stars lit up the sky, at 9:15 pm on October 2, 2012. Wished had a remote timer to do a basic kind of star trail.
Attachment 1096042
contd...
This is the best picture of the entire blog, mind-blowing dada.

After viewing the travelogue, I am eager to meet you on the 23rd. I sincerely hope you would be there to make our day.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/team-b...kata-meet.html (Of Rain drenched roads, muddy cars & a bunch of car nuts - The Very Rare Kolkata Meet)
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Old 14th June 2013, 11:50   #161
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 13: Tso Kar [15,000 ft] - Tanglang la [17,480 ft] - Rumste [14,100 ft]: 78 km.

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-fullscreen-capture-13062013-001333.jpg

The red line denotes the connecting link road of Tso Kar to Debring, the Y-junction, where this Tso Kar road meets the Manali-Leh highway.

It was a cold, cold windy night, temperatures would have been close to -10 or so. Water in the bottles have frozen stiff and there were ice particles lining up the inside of the tent. Woke up once in between and put on another layer - the heavy jacket that I was carrying for Stok Kangri. By 6 am was awake. It is a big day today, a day which will take him all the way to Tanglang la, the big high pass and then on to Indus basin side. The plan to end the day's ride at Rumtse, the first village after Tanglang la, or at the scenic village of Lato, some kms ahead of Rumtse.
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Though awake early, packing took a lot of time. Everything was taken down from the cycle, to pack up the tent and all and then fix securely with the crosswind making it difficult, it was only by around 9 am I was at the Tso Kar dhaba for a breakfast of maggi, omelets and tea.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste4.jpg


To the Tso kar link road with Y-junction of Manali-Leh highway.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste5.jpg


Stopped again for the all the landscape colours
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste6.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste7.jpg



and a final view of the mountains of Tso Kar, I head towards Debring to connect back to the Leh highway
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste8.jpg



Another stop for a few clicks as I see two oil tankers tanking that yesterday's shortcut towards Tashi dhaba.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste9.jpg



A close up image, and Tashi dhaba where I stayed the night of October 1, 2012, can also be seen at a distance.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste10.jpg



contd..

Last edited by adc : 14th June 2013 at 11:54.
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Old 14th June 2013, 12:44   #162
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

A final bend of the Tso Kar link road and can from a distance see the dhabas of Debring, on the Manali-Leh highway.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste11.jpg


Around 11:30, I am at the dhaba at Debring. A stop here for black tea, a quick maggi again as the next meal would be at Rumtse and most vital also to get a clear distance in km from here. Debring is the base from where climb will start to Tanglang la.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste15.jpg


The dhaba owner at Debring, confirming that it is around 21 km from here to the Tanglang la top. Buy a few bars of Cadbury from here. A video ps image.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste1.jpg



I knew that I was a bit late, would have been better if would have here an hour before. The packing took time, and the 20 or so odd km from Tso Kar also had taken a bit of time due to my stopping again for clicks and just to look around. Still I thought the progress was under control, a bit behind definitely but not too late.



And just about as I was to start, stop again seeing this magnificent panoramic view of dzos among the mountains being herded to some pasture lands. [A dzo is a hybrid of yak and domestic cattle].
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste12.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste14.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste13.jpg


So, 21 km from here [Debring] to Tanglang la top. It is now 11:30 and I think at 5 km/hr, which has been the norm for high passes till now with exhaustion and photo breaks, I should be up there by 3:30 or let's say even by 4:30 - just enough time to be within the somewhat safe zone [of weather] to cross and use the big downhill to move down fast to Rumtse before sundown or even further a few kms to Lato.


But then who knew by the end of the day that if there is a pass that would be a litmus test of endurance and grit, a pass that would clear up any and all the audacity that one might have gathered thinking that it is just the last of "21 km" of uphill track, a pass that would put the fear in a cyclist of the emptiness of riding solo in cold high mountains as the day closes down, it would be the mighty Tanglang la at 17,000+ feet -- the last of the 5 mountain passes on the iconic Manali-Leh highway.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste17.jpg


contd...

Last edited by adc : 14th June 2013 at 13:09.
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Old 14th June 2013, 13:46   #163
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Tang Lang La scares the gut out of even a 4x4 driver, let alone a lone cyclist. In my list, it is more fearsome than Khardung La itself.
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Old 15th June 2013, 02:17   #164
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 13: Tso Kar [15,000 ft] - Tanglang la [17,480 ft] - Rumste [14,100 ft]: 78 km. contd..


So by around sometime after 11:30, start cycling from Debring to the top of the high pass. As said, I had this feeling then that though a little late, I had the day's journey in control. Tanglang la is an unique pass in way that the top of the pass is almost visible from its base, i.e., Debring, some 21 km away. In a way it even initially reassures that Tanglang la top is there in sight and the gradients leading to it though long, does not look that steep! The top marked by red arrow and seen from around Debring.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste16a.jpg


The first factor that works against my premise of keeping the average speed of 5 km/hr, is that this is no macadamized road. It is in the process so of being widened, and now it is more of a track with a surface that is rutty and bumpy. And the crosswinds that blew or a truck that passed by whipped up fine dusts and at that height it multiplied the feeling of breathlessness. There are stones and pebbles strewn across. Traction is less and and the ride bumpy - i.e. the physical effort is much more. And still then I can see the pass, should be there in the target time!!
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste25.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste27.jpg


And then the next realization. There is a big difference of ability to perform as altitude is gained. What I mean is like lets say if one is okay at 12k to 15k, it does not automatically translate that someone will be working around the previous capacity at 16k feet or even worse at 17 k feet. Let me get this twisted comparison, considering examination marks - one who gets 70 could have got 75, but then that premise works lesser and lesser higher up; there is big difference in effort, let's say above 90 - to get each and every mark.

To compound this rarefied air, there is the cold wind on the first week of October 2012.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste19.jpg


The third factor: The road is being constructed and as such unlike other passes, there is no milestone for kms to let me know how much I have covered or still left to do. I see a BRO worker, ask him, the distance to the top from around here. He gives a figure of 14-15 km or so around at 1:45 pm, i.e, after some around 2 hrs of hard climbing around 6 km have been covered if I take his figure. That's when the first sense of realization and worriness sets in . At 3 km/hr avg speed, the expected time of arrival is close to sun setting time. And when sun gets down behind the horizon and the mountains and tracks come into shade, the temperature plummets. That has been the experience at Nakeela, Tanglangla at this height can make it only worse. And I have not even considered the further 35 km of downhill left to go to the first inhabited place on the other side of Tanglang la, i.e., Rumtse.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste20.jpg


The fourth and most underestimated: The gradient - innocuously looking at less than 10% but what it more than makes up with the long winding stretches. There are no switchbacks or loops reaching the pass quickly, but big stretches of never ending and rigorous climbs.

Relentless and punishing long sweeps that goes on for ever, ridge after ridge. And with high altitude the bone chilling wind conditions of October, the long slow frustrating climbs, hour after hour, are taxing to the limit.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste22.jpg

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Ridge after ridge of slow sweeps of track continues.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste24.jpg



At this big altitude, long slow gradients construction was most probably adopted to ensure that the loaded trucks climb up to the pass.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste28.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste29.jpg



I can still see the top of the La from a distance, and yet the top remains distant as laborious minutes and hours pass by. At the end of 3 hours of climb, I have come to believe it is an illusion and is playing havoc with the mind. The pass that is seen and felt so near is far, far away. You would want it to end, even it be with a big hard incline, to get done and over with it - but Tanglang la is a high altitude slow torture process with a whole lot of cold biting crosswinds thrown into the mix.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste18.jpg


The fifth factor: Solo here is absolute solo in October. A few trucks with windows all shuttered up and some Sumos that pass are all in a hurry. Barren, cold and windy, no one wants to spend another extra moment out here gazing around - on this wrong side of Tanglang la.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste34.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste36.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste37.jpg


I have stopped many, many times. All those images were taken only while my gasping for breath, to free my mind a bit albeit temporarily - there were no voluntary photo breaks unlike other passes. I tried to pedal faster than the eventual 3 km/hr, it was impossible. Even at the rate i was going with the loaded cycle, every 100-200 mts or so, was stopping for sometime. Every segment was like if I have just finished running a long sprint race.


Heart beat has red lined time and time again on this merciless ascent. The dirt track of sand, stones, ruts and bumps, the oxygen-starved altitude, the physical strain of long never ending sweeps, and last but not least that view of the top of the pass always in my line of sight yet still not coming near -- all have hugely conspired on this date to strip me off mentally and physically, slowly but surely.


contd...

Last edited by adc : 15th June 2013 at 02:30.
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Old 15th June 2013, 18:35   #165
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Default Re: Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit

Day 13: Tso Kar [15,000 ft] - Tanglang la [17,480 ft] - Rumste [14,100 ft]: 78 km. contd..


It is now 3 pm with no inkling of how much still left, I come up to these guys - a bulldozer operator and a labourer. Very happy to see them, ask the labourer about how much to the top, confidently he says "3 km." I latch on to that distance km figure. Elated, so again by some miracle within the target time of 4/430 pm or so to the top. Deep down may be I knew that quoted kms is all wrong, but I am willing to latch and cling on to anything that sounded good.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste26.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste33.jpg



..and have a glance around from where I have been riding up
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste31.jpg



This video shows the conversation I had with him, and the relief I get on hearing it is now "just 3 km" from here. He further adds, the track goes down a little and climbs up then a little more to top.





If you had seen that video, there is that relief in words by me even after all that I have gone through - "toh pahunch jayenge aramse". Even take courage from them as I see there is even a small labour camp at this altitude and where they are roughing it out among all the dust and cold. Here they are day in day out and here I am making scene out of a day's ride!
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste32.jpg


Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste30.jpg




Finding new strength in that "3 km" number, expect in another 1 hr, should be on the top. After that brief stoppage at 3:05 pm, I start towards the top again on this dirt track. The concern at that immediate brief moment was now not the time now, but just that I don't suffer a puncture or side wall tear.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste35.jpg


An hour pass by and then another 25 mts, 4:25 pm, can still see what looks like the final turn to the top but then I am still pedalling. The incline that same gradual gradient yet more even more brutal with the altitude increase. The "3 km" euphoria has gone, and what worse as I see the dark clouds gathering.



The sun is behind the clouds now and immediately feel the coldness even with this physical workout of strenuous cycling. Mysteriously the wind has died down now, and wonder what more to add on to the misery list - going to rain, snow or what! I take out the raincoat which doubles up as a warm clothing also, as it has a linen inside. Put it on top as another layer and still feel cold.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste85.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste86.jpg



Look back and see only the top of distant mountains in sunlight.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste45.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste38.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste39.jpg


The cycling continues with numerous stops. As said almost every 200 mts or so, I am stopping. By now have long been ditched the "3 km left" figure. There is no way to go back or even after all this, a desire to quit for another day. Sometimes when you are pushed back, the only way is forward. Out here in fading light, there is a new level of grit built up. It is too late to tap out, end of this has to be seen - to reach to the top whenever it comes.


Another hour of passes by, the time now 5:30 pm. Again seemingly flat, have now started to discount any "good news or thoughts" - solely concentrating on pedalling on and fighting back the elements.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste86-2.jpg


But this stretch does look different, there are some prayer flags at the side, but the track then turns right.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste40.jpg


And then here it comes to view. Sweet mother of god!! At 5:41 pm, October 3, 2012, Tanglang la with all its splendor - the yellow marker stone, the Baba Mandir, the Chorten, the prayer flags.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste85-2.jpg


Just like it has been with all the other passes after Rhotang, have this pass all alone with me in this "off-season" month travel . But there is not much time. A hurried couple of shots.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste41.jpg

Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste46.jpg



In 5-6 mts about to start, I stop. Rumste village, the first inhabited place after Tanglang la, is around 30+ km down. If the road is this bad, like while going up, then a downhill rate would be max 10 or so kmph, i.e., 3 hours from here, reaching at 9. If it is tarred, it will take around 1.5-2 hrs. At 6 pm, dusk light will be there for another 30 mts before there is darkness all around. Never had I thought I would be riding in the dark, the best I have is the head torch that I am carrying for camping and trekking.

Start searching, it is somewhere down in one of those panniers. All things were haphazardly packed at the start time from Tso Kar. Another approx 10-12 mts goes , every activity is a breath exhausting stunt and those minutes seem like an eternity. But still the big positive, mysteriously there is no wind on the top, it is very cold but the weather is holding out.


At 5:56 pm I start rolling towards Rumtse, some 30 odd km from here. The objective now to pedal as fast as possible, cover as many kms before it is complete darkness. To dismay I see this track, beaten down and still with stones and some loose sand and dirt - no way I can go at downhill speeds. For a change, I am not even concerned about the views towards the Indus basin from the top - though beautiful and yet tantalizingly menacing in this fading light. May be another ride if and when done but not at this hour.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste42.jpg

Just when I was losing all hope about high speed on good tar, the track magically has metamorphosed into this beautiful tarred road. A video ps shot.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste43.jpg



Curse myself, why just I did not start just an hour before - I could have enjoyed this downhill big time. But now who knows what darkness will bring. Well the first thing to hit was the coldness as the wind swept by while speeding along the downhill. The last light went off by around 40 minutes, so by around 6:40 or so it was complete darkness.

The head torch barely lighted up a part of the road. The black tar edge merged with the abyss down. Most probably I have another 15-20 km still to travel. I stop trying to think it out clearly. There is no way to stay out here or even camp, I will have to reach Rumtse. Start cycling again soon, keeping to the hill side and speed drastically reduced. With the weight of myself and loaded cycle, momentum was still high.

Hands on both brakes, and hard braking was needed as the road turned and turned doing its descent and I moved in the inadequate light sometimes tangentially only to correct some secs later. One thing I was glad I invested on hydraulics discs, braking was pinpoint and held up in the numerous short emergency braking that went on.

Shivering was there from the cold but was not the primary concern. The strategy of a slow yet optimum speed and with the light now focused not on the road but on the right hand mountain side, I was progressing okay - in fact was calm now.

Just when things were going "okay", in the dark I now come upon a still to be constructed culvert, there are stones on it indicating to take the side road and a gurgling stream noise can be heard. I lie down the cycle and with the head torch light, make out the tyre tracks and find out it crosses a stream and then again joins up to the tarred road. A bit of moonlight was there but it just bounced off the rocks and the water so did the torch light. Could not even make out the depth or the rocks or the part of the track to take. If I have to cross it would be on total assumption.

Now bring the cycle to the edge of the track, some 10-12 width of bone chilling water to be crossed. Depth even if not much but definitely I would be wet and was more worried about stumbling and falling into it while pushing the loaded bicycle.

October night it was already close to zero now at this height and the possibility of getting wet, I do not want to even think of it. Killing sarai waters were crossed in afternoon and I remember the freeze it brought on. But this stream has to be crossed, Rumtse has to be reached. The night will be more cold and freezing as time goes by.

I was about to enter when at a distance I see double headlights light high up and coming along the downhil - a single truck. Till now in all of this 1 hr 15 mts or so from Tanglang la top not a vehicle has crossed me in either direction.

Wait for it as it takes another 10 mts or so to come down. I have positioned by myself and bicycle on the track, a fully loaded truck stops. Ask him about how much from here is Rumtse, says around 8-10 km or so. I ask him how much is the depth of this, he says not much and I ask him again to think and say as I am on a bicycle not on a truck. He repeats it is not much.

Then this follows: The bicycle is in front of him, get up on it - the plan was that the truck driver would light up that track and I will cycle through the stream. And that is exactly how it was done. The truck with its double headlights lighted up the side track and I rode through the stream waters. And as he had said, it was not deep but with big stones I did have to stop in between. The trek shoes were wet but not inside.

The truck then itself crosses and joins the road. I thank him much and ask for another favour. Big downhill is still ongoing as height is being lost from 17k feet of Tanglang la to 14k feet of Rumtse - the plan now I will be riding in front with the truck behind showing me the way with its headlight. Frankly I did not expect the truck driver to agree to it, but he does! This was now thriller cinema stuff, downhill the speed is around 25-30 kmph or so, the truck behind showing the road now lighted adequately with its big headlights.

But still I had a problem and that's more mental. The truck was fully loaded and with that it was making squealing braking noise on each and every turn or as it crept behind me.

This was making uncomfortable, the last thing I would want after all this is to get run over by a loaded truck that is showing me lights from behind! I let go off the truck - as much as I wanted the light, the loaded truck braking noise just behind me was making me jittery

I wave him a goodbye and thanks, and he starts to move on. But then though I not willing to be in front of the truck but still not willing to leave the truck! I am now furiously going at a speed just behind the truck!!

I can see the road as he lighted up and still I am not in front of him. This worked perfectly, the speed was there on the downhill as I matched the truck speed [and since it was loaded, the speed was not much to run away from me]. Finally in some minutes I reach the first lights which turns out to be an Army camp. And how much I was happy to see those lights!

I stop, again aware of the shivers and coldness. The truck has gone now. See an army jawan, shout to him and he on seeing me standing along a bicycle at this cold night hours, he is zapped. Arre what are you doing here, where you come from? he asks. And I just ask if I can stay over here? He could see I was trembling from the cold, he gives me assurance, almost I have come to Rumtse, it is less than 2 kms from here and a few dhabas are there fooding and lodging.

As I was talking about this, a group of Sumos carrying local people pass by. I wave them down and they understood the plan again. To light up the road for the next 2 km or so to Rumtse. With a line of 3 Sumos behind me and I was again fast and furiously going downhill to Rumtse, the road lighted up by their headlights.

With minutes Rumtse comes up. I again thank them for all the help. It had been such a close call. That truck driver and these Sumo guys have ensured that even after all that drama, despite all the fear and odds, a few minutes before 8 pm, in one piece I am finally at Rumtse.

Enter the first roadside dhaba that is there, get a room. I have to stop my shivering first, cups of hot tea followed and a few smokes back to back.

Quote:
A small village even by Ladakh standards, Rumtse is the first human settlement on the way from Lahaul to Ladakh after Taglang Pass. It is located 70 km east of Leh and is the starting point for trek to Tso Moriri.

Rumtse lies in Rupshu Valley which lies sandwiched between Tibet, Zanskar and Ladakh
By 8:30 pm, after an evening food of maggi and omelets...
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...it was time to lay flat on the bed. It has been too much of a day and night. Appreciate the Trek bicycle aka Mountain Knight too for taking everything in its stride - Just like what our Safari VTT has been doing for the last 5 years, bringing us home time and time again from many a distant land and unknown situations.
Extreme Expedition - Bicycling Manali-TsoKar-Leh-Khardungla & Stok Kangri summit trek-tanglang-la-rumste77.jpg


It had been a big close call, many lesson learned about why it is so important to start on time to this and that. If there had been a puncture today, where would I be at this time? The track had sharp stones to rocks; a puncture was a big possibility, even a sidewall tear even could have happened.



Bone tired, I would soon fall asleep. Tomorrow is a 70 km run, the downhill continues to Upshi and with a slight incline to finally enter Leh. After some 500 km, this amazing journey on this Manali -Leh highway is finally coming to an end.


contd...

Last edited by adc : 15th June 2013 at 19:04.
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